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Fifth-seeded Bulls get what they wanted: Nets in first round

Chicago Bulls Vs WashingtWizards. Chicago Bulls No.12 Kirk Hinrich blocks shot WashingtWizards No.2 John Wall.  Wednesday April 17 2013

Chicago Bulls Vs Washington Wizards. Chicago Bulls No.12 Kirk Hinrich blocks the shot of Washington Wizards No.2 John Wall. Wednesday April 17, 2013 I Photo by Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 19, 2013 7:55AM



So Brooklyn it is.

The Bulls, who beat the Washington Wizards 95-92 in the regular-season finale Wednesday night at the United Center, are the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will face the Nets starting Saturday in Brooklyn.

Privately, it was the opponent the Bulls wanted, not just because of their 3-1 record against the Nets. The playoffs are about matchups, and the Bulls think their bigs — especially with Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah playing again after extended injuries — can cause some problems for the Nets.

The Nets have some talented players in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, but they aren’t the most disciplined team, especially late in games. That plays right into the hands of a grind-it-out, defensive-minded coach such as Tom Thibodeau.

Just don’t remind him of the Bulls’ regular-season advantage.

‘‘I don’t put a lot of stock in that,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘They’re really good. They’re the higher seed, and they earned that. They play hard. We’re going to have to be ready.’’

Thibodeau also will have to juggle minutes and his rotation. Gibson (sprained left medial collateral ligament) played 21 minutes Wednesday, and Noah (right plantar fasciitis) played 14. Neither started, and they might not start in Game 1.

“Whatever [Gibson and Noah] can give us, and I’m sure they can give us more and more as we go along,’’ Thibodeau said.

With Carlos Boozer scoring 19 points and grabbing 15 rebounds and Nazr Mohammed having another solid performance (17 points, seven rebounds), Noah has no problem coming off the bench.

“I’m cool with whatever,’’ Noah said. “I can handle the bench. We’ll talk it over with Thibs. I was just happy I was able to play [the last two games] and feel good after. Now we’ll see what the game plan is.’’

The win gave the Bulls a 45-37 record and a 24-17 mark at home. And they did it without Derrick Rose.

“It’s a season where it could have really gone downhill, but big credit to the guys that stepped up when guys were hurt,’’ Luol Deng said. “Eighty-two games is a long season, and to get 45 wins with all these injuries, messing with different lineups, I thought we did a great job.’’



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